Accountants for the Self-Employed



Being self-employed has its benefits, including the flexibility to work on your own terms and the potential for unlimited income. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to managing finances and taxes. As a self-employed individual, it’s crucial to understand your tax obligations, keep accurate financial records, and use the right accounting tools to manage your finances effectively. In this article, we will cover important questions that self-employed individuals frequently ask, including whether they can do their own accounting, the benefits of using accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero, and the importance of having an accountant. Whether you’re just starting out as a self-employed individual or are looking to grow your business, this article will provide valuable information and insights.

Should I Get an Accountant if I’m Self-Employed?

As a self-employed individual, it is important to carefully consider whether or not to hire an accountant. While it is possible to do your own accounting and handle your own tax affairs, an accountant can provide you with valuable guidance and expertise in managing your finances and ensuring compliance with tax laws. An accountant can also help you save time by handling the administrative tasks of accounting and tax preparation, allowing you to focus on your business. Additionally, an accountant can help you maximize your tax deductions, minimize your tax liability, and avoid penalties for errors or omissions in your tax returns. However, it is important to be mindful of the cost of an accountant and weigh the benefits against the expense to determine whether hiring an accountant is the right choice for you.

  • The Benefits of Hiring an Accountant
    • Provide professional advice on tax compliance and planning
    • Help maximise your deductions and minimize your tax liability
    • Ensure accuracy and timely filing of tax returns
    • Help minimise the risk of an HMRC investigation
  • The Cost of Hiring an Accountant
    • The cost of an accountant varies, depending on the complexity of your business and the services you require
    • Some accountants charge a flat fee, while others charge an hourly rate
  • Is it Worth Getting an Accountant for Self-Assessment?
    • It depends on the complexity of your business and your personal preference
    • If you have a straightforward business and are confident in your abilities to do your own accounting, you may not need an accountant
    • However, if you have a complex business, it may be worth the cost to have a professional handle your finances and ensure compliance with tax laws

How to Avoid Paying Tax When Self-Employed?

As a self-employed individual, it is important to comply with UK tax laws and regulations. However, there are some legitimate ways to reduce your tax bill and keep more of your hard-earned money. Here are a few tips for avoiding tax as a self-employed person in the UK:

  • Claim legitimate expenses: Self-employed individuals can claim a range of expenses against their income, such as business-related travel, home office expenses, and equipment costs. Keeping accurate records of these expenses can help to lower your taxable income and reduce your tax bill.
  • Consider registering for VAT: If your annual turnover is over £85,000, you must register for VAT. However, even if your turnover is lower than this, registering voluntarily can help you to claim back VAT on your business expenses, which can reduce your taxable income.
  • Take advantage of tax-free allowances: Every year, UK taxpayers have a certain amount of tax-free allowances, such as the personal allowance and the tax-free dividends allowance. Maximizing the use of these allowances can help to reduce your tax bill.
  • Make the most of tax-efficient savings: By saving money in a tax-efficient manner, such as a pension or an ISA, you can reduce your tax bill and grow your savings for the future.
  • Use incorporation: If your business is growing and you are earning a substantial income, you may want to consider incorporating your business as a limited company. This can provide significant tax savings, as you can pay yourself a lower salary and take the remainder of your income as dividends, which are taxed differently.

It is important to note that while these tips can help to reduce your tax bill, they must be used within the bounds of UK tax laws and regulations. If you are in any doubt, it is always best to seek professional advice from an accountant or tax advisor.

  • Keep Accurate Records
    • Keeping accurate records of all business expenses and income can help minimize your tax liability
  • Claim All Eligible Deductions
    • Know what expenses you can deduct from your taxes and make sure to claim them
  • Use Tax-Efficient Strategies
    • Consider strategies to minimize your tax bill, such as incorporating your business or using a tax-efficient business structure

How to Do Your Own Accounts When Self-Employed?

When you are self-employed, it is important to keep track of your financial records in order to prepare accurate tax returns and to make informed business decisions. Doing your own accounts when self-employed can seem daunting, but with the right tools and knowledge, it can be manageable. Here are some steps you can follow to do your own accounts when self-employed:

  1. Keep accurate records: Keep a record of all your business income and expenses, including invoices, receipts, bank statements and other financial documents.
  2. Organize your records: Use a spreadsheet or accounting software to organize your records. This will help you to see your financial position at a glance and make it easier to prepare your tax return.
  3. Track your expenses: Make sure you keep track of all your business expenses, including travel, stationery, and other costs related to running your business.
  4. Prepare a profit and loss statement: A profit and loss statement shows your business income and expenses over a set period of time, helping you to see how much profit you are making.
  5. Keep up to date with tax laws: Make sure you are aware of the tax laws relevant to your business, including the types of expenses that can be claimed as tax-deductible.
  6. File your tax return: When you are self-employed, you are responsible for filing your own tax return. Make sure you do this by the deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

By following these steps, you can do your own accounts when self-employed and keep your financial records in order. If you prefer, you can also seek the advice of an accountant who can help you to manage your finances and ensure you are meeting all your tax obligations.

  • Keep Accurate Records
    • Keep accurate records of all business expenses and income to make filing your taxes easier
  • Use Accounting Software
    • Consider using accounting software to simplify the process of tracking your finances
  • Know the Tax Requirements
    • Make sure you are aware of the tax requirements for self-employed individuals in the UK, including filing deadlines and tax rates

Can I Write Off Work Clothes and Other Expenses on My Taxes?

  • Work Clothes
    • You can write off the cost of work clothes if they are required for your job and not suitable for everyday wear
  • Meals
    • You can write off the cost of meals if they are incurred while traveling for work or if they are necessary for the performance of your job
  • Groceries
    • In general, you cannot write off the cost of groceries unless they are purchased for resale or for use in the production of income
  • Toilet Paper
    • You cannot write off the cost of toilet paper as a business expense

Can I do my own accounting as a sole trader?

As a sole trader, it is possible for you to do your own accounting, but it is important to be aware of your obligations as a self-employed individual. You are responsible for keeping accurate records of your income and expenses, calculating your profits and losses, and paying the appropriate amount of tax and National Insurance contributions to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If you are unsure about how to handle your accounting responsibilities, or if you would like to free up more time to focus on other aspects of your business, it may be worth considering hiring an accountant to assist you. An accountant can provide you with professional guidance, help you to save money by maximizing your tax efficiency, and ensure that you are complying with all relevant tax laws and regulations.

Can I use QuickBooks as a sole trader?

Yes, QuickBooks is a popular accounting software option for sole traders. It offers features such as invoicing, expense tracking, and tax calculations that make it easy to manage your business finances. Additionally, QuickBooks can help you generate financial reports that can be useful in understanding the financial health of your business and making informed decisions. However, it is important to ensure that you have a basic understanding of accounting and tax laws in order to accurately use the software and meet your obligations to HMRC.

How do I keep records as a sole trader?

As a sole trader, it is important to keep accurate records of your business transactions to ensure compliance with tax laws and to easily track the financial performance of your business. Here are some steps to help you keep proper records:

  1. Separate personal and business expenses: Make sure to keep personal and business expenses separate by using separate bank accounts and credit cards.
  2. Document all transactions: Keep records of all income and expenses, including receipts, invoices, bank statements, and bills.
  3. Use accounting software: Consider using accounting software such as QuickBooks, Xero, or FreeAgent to help you keep track of your finances and generate reports.
  4. Store records securely: Store all financial records securely and keep backup copies in case of loss or damage.
  5. Update records regularly: Regularly update your records at least once a month to ensure accuracy.

By keeping accurate and up-to-date records, you can make informed business decisions, prepare tax returns efficiently, and avoid any potential penalties from HMRC.

Can Xero be used by sole traders?

Yes, Xero can be used by sole traders. Xero is a cloud-based accounting software that provides features such as invoicing, expenses tracking, bank reconciliation, and financial reporting. It is an efficient and user-friendly tool for sole traders who need to keep track of their financial records and manage their business finances. Xero integrates with a range of add-ons and applications, making it a flexible solution for sole traders with different needs.

Do I need to tell HMRC I am a sole trader?

Yes, you are required to inform HMRC if you are starting as a sole trader in the UK. You should register as self-employed with HMRC as soon as you start trading. This can be done by contacting HMRC or by registering online through the HMRC website. Once registered, you will need to file an annual self-assessment tax return, which will detail your income and expenses for the tax year. Failure to register and file your tax returns on time may result in fines and penalties, so it is important to keep on top of your obligations to HMRC.

Do I need a bookkeeper as a sole trader?

As a sole trader, you are responsible for managing all financial aspects of your business, including record-keeping and tax compliance. Whether or not you need a bookkeeper will depend on several factors, such as the size and complexity of your business, your level of accounting expertise, and the amount of time you have to devote to your finances.

If you are comfortable managing your own finances and have the time to devote to bookkeeping and record-keeping, you may not need a bookkeeper. However, if you have a busy schedule, find bookkeeping and record-keeping to be a challenge, or are not confident in your accounting skills, you may benefit from hiring a bookkeeper to help manage your finances.

A bookkeeper can help you keep accurate records, ensure that your books are up-to-date, and help you stay on top of your tax obligations. They can also help you make informed business decisions by providing you with valuable financial insights. However, it’s important to consider the cost of a bookkeeper and weigh it against the time and energy you would have to spend on bookkeeping and record-keeping if you do it yourself.

Whether or not you need a bookkeeper as a sole trader will depend on your individual circumstances, but it’s worth considering if you want to stay on top of your finances and ensure that your business runs smoothly.

Do I need a business bank account if I am self-employed?

As a self-employed individual, having a separate business bank account is recommended but not required by law. By having a dedicated business account, it helps you keep your personal and business finances separate, making it easier to track your business expenses and income. This also makes it easier to produce accurate records and statements for tax purposes and potential business loans. However, if you are just starting out, you may choose to use a personal account initially and consider switching to a business account as your business grows.

What bank account do I need as a sole trader?

As a sole trader in the UK, you are required to separate your personal and business finances for tax purposes. This means that you need to have a separate business bank account for your sole trader activities. Having a business bank account makes it easier to keep track of your business income and expenses and also gives you a clear picture of your business financials. It also helps you to build a good credit history for your business and can make it easier to secure loans or other financial products in the future. When choosing a business bank account, you should consider factors such as fees, interest rates, and the level of support and services offered.

Do I still need an accountant if I use Accounting Software?

As a sole trader, while you can use accounting software such as Xero, QuickBooks, or others, having an accountant may still be beneficial. An accountant can offer valuable advice and support with your financial planning and tax compliance, as well as ensure that your records are accurate and up-to-date. Additionally, an accountant can help you navigate complex financial and tax regulations, provide valuable insights and advice on maximizing your profits, and minimize your tax liabilities. However, if you are confident in your ability to maintain accurate records and understand financial regulations, then you may not need an accountant. The choice of whether to use an accountant or not depends on your individual needs and circumstances.

Do HMRC ask for receipts?

HMRC may ask for receipts as proof of expenses incurred in the course of running a business. This is especially true when making a claim for business expenses on a tax return. It’s important to keep accurate and up-to-date records of all business transactions and to hold on to receipts, invoices, and any other relevant documents. If HMRC requests receipts, you must provide them within a specified timeframe or risk incurring penalties. In general, it’s a good idea to maintain accurate records and keep receipts even if you don’t expect to be audited, as this will make the process smoother if you are audited in the future.

Can HMRC see my Accounting Software?

HMRC has the right to request access to any records related to your business and its finances. This includes accounting software records. HMRC uses various tools and information sources, including data from software providers, to identify cases for investigation. If HMRC finds that your records are inadequate or you have failed to maintain accurate records, it may lead to a tax investigation. In such cases, you may be required to provide additional documentation, such as receipts and invoices, to support your tax return. It is important to keep accurate and up-to-date records, including through the use of accounting software, to ensure you are able to comply with HMRC’s requirements.

What documents do sole traders need to submit to HMRC?

As a sole trader in the UK, you will need to submit the following documents to HMRC:

  1. Self Assessment Tax Return – This must be submitted annually and details your income and expenses for the tax year.
  2. Proof of Income – This can include sales invoices, bank statements, and other records that show the amount of money you have received during the tax year.
  3. Expense Records – You will need to keep records of all the expenses you have incurred in the course of running your business. This may include receipts, invoices, and bank statements.
  4. VAT Returns (if applicable) – If your business turnover exceeds £85,000, you will need to register for VAT and submit regular VAT returns.
  5. Payroll Records (if applicable) – If you have employees, you will need to keep records of their pay, deductions, and other payroll-related information.
  6. P11D Forms (if applicable) – If you provide benefits to your employees, you will need to complete a P11D form and submit it to HMRC.

It is important to keep accurate records and submit them to HMRC on time to avoid penalties and interest charges. You may also find it helpful to use accounting software to help you manage your finances and keep track of your records.

How Much Can I Earn Before Declaring to HMRC?

Self-employed individuals must declare all of their income to HMRC.

There is no specific amount of income you need to earn before declaring it to HMRC.

If you earn more than £1,000 from self-employment, you need to register for Self Assessment and declare your income to HMRC.

How Do HMRC Know About Undeclared Income?

  • HMRC has access to information from various sources, including banks, other government departments, and tax avoidance tip-offs.
  • They use sophisticated data matching and analytics software to identify undeclared income.
  • They also conduct regular compliance checks to ensure taxpayers are meeting their obligations.

How Much Tax Does a Sole Trader Pay UK?

  • The amount of tax a sole trader pays depends on their income and expenses.
  • Self-employed individuals pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions and Income Tax on their profits.
  • Class 2 National Insurance contributions are currently £3.05 per week.
  • Class 4 National Insurance contributions are 9% on profits between £9,568 and £50,270, and 2% on profits above £50,270.
  • Income Tax is payable on profits at the standard rates of 20%, 40%, or 45%.

Do I Pay Tax Twice as a Sole Trader?

  • No, you do not pay tax twice as a sole trader.
  • Income from self-employment is taxed only once, after expenses have been deducted.

Helpful Accountants for the Self-Employed

We’re here to help if you’d like answers to all the questions above made relevant to your own situation, you probably have other questions too.

As a self-employed individual, managing your finances and complying with tax laws can be overwhelming. Mercian Accountants is here to help. Our team of experts can assist you with everything from setting up your accounting systems to preparing financial statements and filing taxes. We can help you understand the tax laws and regulations that apply to your business and ensure that you are meeting all your obligations. With Mercian Accountants on your side, you can have peace of mind knowing that your finances are in good hands. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you grow and succeed as a self-employed individual.